By Manish Pandey
2020 was a strange year for Hollywood film releases but it was also, "the industry's most successful year on the diversity front".
That's according to a report by UCLA which also found movie watchers in the US are becoming more diverse and prefer content with greater diversity.
The number of ethnic minorities involved in watching or making American movies also increased.
The top 185 English-language films released were examined.
Eight of the top 10 theatrically released films had casts in which minorities made up more than 30%, including Bad Boys for Life, starring Will Smith – which had 50%.
Christopher Nolan's Tenet and Sonic the Hedgehog each had between 31%-40%.
This is very different from around a decade ago.
In 2011, more than half of the films had cast diversity of less than 11% – but in 2020 that fell with less than 10% of films in that lowest level.
The report found more people were watching films with diverse casts as well as the entertainment industry hiring more diverse staff for both onscreen and creative roles.
For the first time since the report launched, ethnic minorities were represented in the lead actor and total cast categories at levels proportionate to the US population, with writers credited for the top films almost doubling from 2019.
But there's a lot more work to do, with few examples of women and minorities running films with the biggest budgets.
"There is a clear underinvestment of films made by, written by, and led by women and people of colour," Ana-Christina Ramon, the report's co-author said.
White film directors were more than twice as likely as minority directors to lead a film with a budget of $100m (£72m) or more – with women and minorities more likely to direct films that fell into the lowest budget category of less than $20m (14.4m).
The most underrepresented groups in all categories, relative to their population in the US, are Latino, Asian and Native actors, directors and writers.
"Hollywood would benefit greatly from embracing 2020's revelations about the possibilities associated with major advances on the diversity front," the report states.
Katie Smith-Wong is a British-Asian film critic and says one lesson is Hollywood's move towards greater diversity in casting and writing.
"They're acknowledging there are different ethnicities and audiences out there who are looking to find a different branch of story," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
The release of Black Panther in 2018, she says, showed there's an audience around the world which needs stories and talent to be recognised from across ethnicities, cultures and histories.
In the UK, Katie feels the influence of diversity is not as strong in the mainstream, with films here not celebrating positive stories as much and leaning more to plots of hardship.
"In Hollywood, you see there are more supporting roles, whereas in the UK, it's hard to find ones that don't avoid stereotypes."
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In June 2020, an open letter was published calling on the UK's film and TV industry to "tackle structural and systemic racism" in broadcasting and film-making.
Among the things the letter asked for was black and brown independent producers to be empowered and for the lack of diversity on productions to be constantly challenged.
"There is diverse talent in the UK, we've seen that in a show like Small Axe and the Rocks film."
"There needs to be more people willing to support different voices that might appeal to more audiences. Because at the end of the day, originality counts," she adds.
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